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After knocking off No. 1 again, Arizona eyes another Cinderella story at NCAAs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Arizona sophomore Gile Bite Starkute had simply hit an attractive strategy onto the again fringe at Grayhawk’s par-4 tenth gap, about 25 ft from the opening, in her extra-hole battle Tuesday with Stanford’s Angelina Ye when Wildcats head coach Laura Ianello turned to her staff’s coach and mentioned, “Let’s Bianca this.”

The distinctive verb has turn into legend round Tucson after Bianca Pagdanganan’s clutch eagle putt that received the Wildcats right into a playoff for match play three years in the past at Karsten Creek and sparked an eventual NCAA title-winning run.

Starkute remembers watching Pagdanganan’s heroics from 2018, although the then Arizona verbal dedication needed to accept highlights. The reside telecast was on in the course of the night time again residence in Vilnius, Lithuania, a city that has extra disc golf programs than common golf programs.

On Tuesday, Starkute was the spotlight.

She rolled within the birdie bomb, her ball hitting the useless middle of the flagstick earlier than dropping and sending Arizona on to Tuesday afternoon’s semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The eighth-seeded Wildcats knocked off top-seeded Stanford, which gained the stroke-play portion by 13 pictures and boasted the person medalist in Rachel Heck. Heck gained her match within the anchor spot, however Arizona took three of the opposite 4 in a 3-2 victory.

The Cardinal, who nonetheless have by no means missed match play since they gained within the inaugural season of the format in 2015, continued the undefeated development of No. 1 seeds failing to win all of it.

“It felt amazing. It felt absolutely amazing,” mentioned Starkute, who had simply saved bogey to increase the match on No. 18 after hitting her second shot right into a bush and taking an unplayable. “I knew that I had to make it. I knew that it was to move on to the next round. Before I putted, my coach (assistant Justin Bubser) told me, ‘Just make it,’ and it fell in.

“I feel like the feeling was just almost the same [as 2018].”

Ianello can attest. She’s had her fair proportion of déjà vu moments this week. Three years in the past, the Wildcats have been additionally the eighth seed and defeated No. 1 UCLA, 3-2, earlier than beating Stanford and Alabama.

“We were that Cinderella story that year,” Ianello mentioned. “We can do it again.”

The Wildcats will now face Ole Miss, which wanted a 22-hole win by Andrea Lignell and 21-hole victory by Samilla Sonderby to edge Texas, 3-2. Sonderby, a freshman from Denmark who arrived within the spring and is taking part in simply her third faculty occasion, topped freshman Ashleigh Park with bogey on the tenth gap.


In the opposite semifinal, reigning NCAA champion Duke will meet Oklahoma State. While the Blue Devils, who gained two years in the past at The Blessings, are the seasoned veterans, the Cowgirls are making their debuts in match play. (Ole Miss can be a match-play first-timer.)

Oklahoma State head coach Greg Robertson, who does have two prior quarterfinal journeys (each losses) with Kent State, has tried to maintain issues unfastened throughout a pressure-packed week. He’s continued the custom of writing jokes on his staff’s pin sheets. Tuesday’s materials included this literal gem: You know what really makes me smile? My facial muscular tissues.

The Cowgirls have been actually all smiles after a 4-1 win over Auburn. So, too, was Duke following its 3-1-1 overcome host Arizona State.

Senior Gina Kim was the one Duke participant to put up on the brief par-4 17th gap in her match in opposition to Sun Devils leadoff specialist Olivia Mehaffey. She then wedged to five ft, sank the putt, delivered an enormous fist pump and roar, and watched as Mehaffey missed from 3 ft to lose the match. After that, she was cheerleader as Duke superior with wins from two freshmen, Anne Chen and Phoebe Brinker.

“Having the experience of winning a national championship really plays a huge role in this,” Kim mentioned. “From two years ago, I learned that energy is a big part in match play, and it can make or break a match.”

All 4 groups heading into the second half of a marathon Tuesday are feeling energized.

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